Knox Mayor: No Tax Increase

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - A new park named for Tommy Schumpert? Planning money for two branch libraries, better retirement for sheriff's deputies? Knox County’s Mayor says next year's budget can do all that, without raising taxes.

Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd has been looking at the methods behind the math.

Knox County’s reality, any budget year, is more than half your money will go for schools.

When some schools are tutoring kids in closets--you've got problems.

This budget would start or continue some fixes.

But not finish them.

“Two five gallon buckets, and it's enough for one class.” For Art, to go go beyond drawing at Belle Morris Elementary, Heather Middlebrooks has to draw water, and that means walking it in.

“From an adjacent classroom every day, because there's no plumbing,” says Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. “They deserve better. As a result, I'm including planning dollars for an expansion at Belle Morris elementary school.”

Belle Morris's fix would be part of a $12 Million boost for Knox County's schools. Five of it for “physical plant upgrades”, including Carter, Burnette, and Hopewell Elementaries. And planning for a new school to ease crowding in Southwest Knox County.

“A couple of days ago, we thought we still were in the process of trying to get people on our side to get our building built,” Middlebrooks says. “Now we actually have some hope.”

“Something had to have been cut to make this work,” County' Commissioner Tank Strickland's a little suspicions, given the Sheriff's officers pensions.

“That comes with a $57 million price tag on day one,” Mayor Ragsdale says.

“That's a misconception that it had to be funded on the front end, that's not true,” argues former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison.

The former sheriff may dispute what to pay when, but he buys into the suggested solution. Borrow the money, selling bonds to pay back the pension costs over time. “Seems like a lot of money, but it's really not, in the large scheme.”

“I'm pleased to tell you we can accomplish these things with no tax increase whatsoever,” Ragsdale says.

“As a taxpayer, it sounds great,” Especially, Commissioner Larry Smith says, given that a proposed hiring freeze also would give current county employees a 2 percent raise, and a year-end bonus.

Still, “I did have one disappointment, in that we didn't get the garage open back up or another garage,” Smith says.

“All the way up here, the subflooring to the back, it's just gone,” says Associate Principal Hubert Wrushen.

The woes running deeper than water, which, given that the money proposed is for planning only, Heather will have to keep carrying.

“I don't know how long it'll take to build our building, but I'm willing to stick in there and hold it out,” says Middlebrooks.

Commissioners will be wading through the specifics on their PCs, the budgets on disc.

They're fast tracking the sheriff's deputies’ pension. The bond proposal goes for a vote later this month.


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